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KEEP OFF THE GRASS.
November 15, 2002

by Bill Hogan

 
 

I subscribe to the belief that all adults of (reasonably) sound mind are solely responsible for their own actions.

A guy opens the gate on a six-foot, barbwired chain-link fence sporting a neon "BEWARE OF DOG" sign and is immediately attacked by an angry German Shepherd. That guy is a boob – and has nobody to blame for the incident but himself.

 
 


It's not the property owner's fault. It's not the dog's fault. It's not the fault of the guy who installed the chain-link fence and it's not the "BEWARE OF DOG" sign maker's fault. The finger of culpability can be pointed in only one direction: at the numbnut that opened the gate in the first place.

(Though I'm sure you wouldn't have to turn over too many rocks to find a lawyer that would argue otherwise. All indications to the contrary, there was no specific warning that directed the unwanted intruder to KEEP OUT.)

At college football games, fans are specifically told to stay off the playing field both during and at the conclusion of a game. Sometimes this request is ignored. Especially when it's a big game and the home team wins.

It happened this past week when Marshall played host to conference rival Miami of Ohio. Marshall, down by five with five seconds to go, scored the game winning touchdown after two controversial pass interference calls helped keep their scoring drive (and hopes) alive.

Fans rushed onto the field to celebrate the fortunate turn of events. It was a scene that has become more and more common after a college football game.

But this particular post-game celebration drew national attention because a Marshall fan was injured. You see – it's all fun and games until someone gets shoved to the ground, hits his head on the hard artificial turf and has to be carted off on a stretcher.

The 36-year-old fan was taken to a local hospital and later released. The man who did the shoving - Miami of Ohio defensive coordinator Jon Wauford – was taken away in handcuffs by the West Virginia State Police, charged with battery and later suspended by the University.

By his brother's account, the fan was simply celebrating a big win with other Marshall supporters and waving goodbye to the Miami of Ohio players as they left the field.

Now, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that "waving goodbye" to the opposing team after a heartbreaking loss is a less than sportsmanlike gesture.

And apparently, he was doing all this while in earshot of Coach Wauford. In hindsight, it may seem like the big mistake was going onto the field in the first place, but the greater blunder was mocking the dejected visiting team within a forearms length of an opposing coach who happens to be a former all-conference defensive end.

I bet that Coach Wauford never imagined a forearm would send the guy flying to the turf like a rag doll.

When I try to picture the scenario in my mind, I see both men as cartoon characters, there's an anvil lying on the turf in the background and the man is taken away in an Acme Ambulance. I want to laugh even though I know I shouldn't.

It reminds me of the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode where Chuckles the Clown dies when he shows up at a parade dressed like a peanut and an elephant tries to shell him. At Chuckles' funeral Mary, much to her own embarrassment, cannot contain her laughter.

What's not funny is Coach Wauford being suspended from his job and facing criminal charges. He has to wonder – as I do – what a 36-year-old man was doing running around the Marshall University football field in the first place. He should have known better than to charge into the coach's place of business and taunt him.

At a time when a woman can spill a hot cup of coffee on herself and win millions by suing the company that sold her the coffee, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this.

But we should have. Tell Coach Wauford not to throw a forearm at anyone not wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. Then give him his job back and drop the assault charges.

As for the injured fan: if you open the gate on a six-foot, barbwired fence sporting a neon "BEWARE OF DOG" sign, and something unfortunate happens, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

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